FLEMING ISLAND – The Eagle Harbor community has come a long way in the past thirty-odd years. One reason is the dedication of John O’Connor and his company, O’Connor Development Corporation, …
FLEMING ISLAND – The Eagle Harbor community has come a long way in the past thirty-odd years. One reason is the dedication of John O’Connor and his company, O’Connor Development Corporation, which over time has been responsible for the bulk of commercial development in the area.
Residents of the neighborhood can look no further than O’Connor when tracing the development of most of its commercial real estate.
“I started the company [O’Connor Development Corporation] in October, 1981,” said O’Connor, who originally worked in banking but disliked it. In the mid-1970’s he teamed with two friends, one of whom was an architect, and the other a developer, to go into business together before he struck out on his own in the early ‘80s.
Before building up Eagle Harbor, O’Connor cut his teeth developing Publix and Winn Dixie locations in north Florida and South Georgia. That experience prepared him for success on Fleming Island.
The 72-year-old Jacksonville native moved to Clay County in 1991, around the time that he began working the development on Fleming Island. The first commercial land purchase in the area ended up being the Publix shopping center that opened for business in 1994.
Overall, O’Connor and his company have been involved in just about every major commercial development on Fleming Island, particularly the Fleming Island Shopping Center on County Road 220.
“We’ve been involved in pretty much all the commercial development out there,” he said. “Publix, Target, Kohl’s, Fresh Market and Starbucks.”
O’Connor’s focus isn’t just to make a lot of money or urbanize Clay County. His reasons for what he does are much simpler and closer to home.
“The goal was to provide things so people would not have to leave the Island to go shopping,” said O’Connor. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that. Everything we’ve done is to serve the community and its residents. We’ve also added a significant tax base to Clay County. We also built the AMC [theatre] and the Holiday Inn Express.”
By now, O’Connor has developed nearly all of Eagle Harbor. There is only one lot left, and the ODC is building their offices on it, next to the AMC theatres.
Although Eagle Harbor is just about built out in terms of development, O’Connor isn’t done yet.
“We made an investment and moved out to Oakleaf, on the southwest corner of Oakleaf Plantation Drive and Discovery. With the new First Coast Expressway [State Route 23], there will be significant impact with that development,” he said.